Awards Watch: Ray Romano on ‘Parenthood’

Ray Romano, ParenthoodNBC Universal Media

It took some time for Parenthood‘s audience to warm to phographer Hank Rizzoli. He’s gruff, grumpy, and the wrench that was thrown between Sarah and her dreamy jailbait schoolteacher, Mark Cyr. But Hank stuck out the awkwardness to become one of the richest recurring characters on the show. This season has been a rocky one in terms of doling out enough quality material for the entire Parenthood ensemble to chew on, but Hank’s story in particular has taken a captivating turn. Ray Romano is unlikely casting for this role, without question. And he’s giving a beautiful performance.

Romano’s no stranger to award shows. It’s easy to forget as Everybody Loves Raymond syndicated episodes fade into background noise that the series was recognized year after year. But we couldn’t have guessed from his nine-year stint as a sarcastic sportwriter — with little depth of character — that Romano could have us reaching for the tissues week after week. Hank’s friendship with Adam and Kristina’s son Max has been one of the bright spots of the series. They’re both no-nonsense with a work ethic that would make most people beg for mercy. And maybe their similarities don’t end there. Now that Hank is learning more about Max’s Asperger’s diagnosis and comparing it to his own personality traits, we’ve got several exemplary scenes for Romano’s Emmy reel.

In the clip below, Hank goes to Sarah to tell her about his revelation. He can barely look her in the eye, mirroring Max’s usual disassociative postures. He’s a little scared, but also strangely relieved. He can hardly get the words out quickly enough: this might be why his marriage failed and why he can’t connect with his daughter. And he notices that Sarah’s dressed for a date, and all over again, he’s crushed. These are the things that he can’t have. Maybe ever. There’s so much to play in just a few minutes, and Ray Romano — former stand-up and recovering star of a family-friendly sitcom — absolutely nails all of it.